NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A Tennessee bill requiring a drunk driver to pay child support if they kill a parent during a crash passed unanimously in the state’s Senate.
House Bill 1834 had already been approved unanimously in the House. The measure would force anyone convicted of vehicular homicide due to intoxication or aggravated vehicular homicide to pay restitution if the victim is the parent of a minor child.
According to the bill, the court would determine an amount that is “reasonable and necessary” after considering several factors, including:
- The financial needs and resources of the child
- The financial resources and needs of the surviving parent or guardian of the child, including the state if the child is in the custody of the department of children’s services
- The standard of living to which the child is accustomed
If the defendant is incarcerated and unable to pay, they’re given one year after their release to begin payments. The payments would continue until the child reaches 18 and graduates from high school.
Payments would not be required if the surviving parent or guardian of the child files a civil suit and obtains a judgment, according to the legislation.
The bill was known as “Bentley’s Law” for much of the legislative session. It was inspired by a Missouri grandmother whose son died in a crash along with his fiancé and 4-month-old child. The crash, caused by a drunk driver, orphaned two children, 5-year-old Bentley and 3-year-old Mason.
Tennessee lawmakers amended the measure on Wednesday, changing its name from “Bentley’s Law” to “Ethan’s, Hailey’s, and Bentley’s Law.”
The two names added are those of the children of Nicholas Galinger, a Chattanooga police officer who died after being struck and killed by a drunk driver in February 2019.
The rookie police officer was checking on a flooded manhole when a car driven by Janet Hinds struck him. Hinds was later found guilty of vehicular homicide by intoxication and sentenced to 11 years in prison.